Coronavirus pandemic continues to stunt womens’ careers, study finds – CNET


The pandemic has been affecting working women.

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More than a year into the coronavirus pandemic, women are still feeling the effects of COVID-19 on their careers. 

In the annual Women in the Workplace report from consultancy McKinsey & Company and nonprofit women’s advocacy group Lean In, data shows that even more women are struggling with their careers than last year. Forty-two percent of women said they felt burned out “often or almost always,” up from 32% in 2020. This stands in contrast to 35% of men, up from 28% last year. 

In addition, about one in three women are thinking about either leaving the workforce or scaling back in their career, up from one in four last year. 

The report also found that women in leadership roles are stepping up in areas like diversity, equity and inclusion, and supporting employee well being, but aren’t being noticed for it. 

“Their efforts are driving better outcomes for all employees — but they are not getting the recognition they deserve,” the report said. The women surveyed said they were investing 25% more time into making sure employees’ workloads were manageable, and another 25% more time into helping them navigate work/life challenges. They’re also finding themselves providing emotional support for their teams. 

The report follows last year’s bleak warning that the pandemic was throttling women’s careers, and jeopardizing the last six years worth of progress. Data from the US Census Bureau showed that in the beginning of 2021, 10 million mothers with school-aged kids weren’t actively working, 1.4 million more than the previous year. In December 2020, women accounted for all the job losses in the US workforce, according to the National Women’s Law Center. 

The data also comes as numerous articles in the last year and a half have discussed how the pandemic will affect women’s careers, including how women tend to bear the brunt of family-related responsibilities and are getting burned out. 

To put together the study, McKinsey and Lean In surveyed 423 companies, and had more than 65,000 respondents. 

The study mentions other persistent problems for women. For one, women of color continue to experience microaggressions at the same rate as two years ago. The Harvard Business Review defines microaggressions as “verbal, behavioral, and environmental indignities that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults to the target person or group.” They’re statements that may sound innocent but actually carrying assumptions and stereotypes.

For example, 177 of Black and Asian women have been confused with someone else who shares their race or ethnicity, in comparison with 4% of white women. Along those lines, 18% of Black women, 13% of Hispanic women, and 11% of Asian women have had co-workers express surprise over their language or other skills, in contrast to 5% of white women.  

“Despite greater awareness of [diversity, equity and inclusion] issues and increased focus on DEI and racial equity in corporate America, the day-to-day experiences of women of color show little improvement,” the report said. 

Speaking to that push for DEI, last year, 93% of companies committed to boosting focus on racial equity. Meanwhile 41% of employees thought that actually happened, dipping lower, to 35%, for women of color. 

Companies are also still struggling to get women into leadership positions. In years past, the report has talked about “the broken rung,” which is the idea that fewer women are getting promoted to their first managerial role, affecting the number of women in leadership positions. 

For every 100 men who get a first manager promotion, there are 89 white women, and 85 women of color. Though the number of women of color in that statistic rose from 79 in 2019, the report said there still aren’t enough women in middle management to promote into senior roles. 

“Across seven years of pipeline data, we see the same concerning trend in the corporate pipeline,” the report said.

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